Penguins vs. Lightning Round One Preview
Penguins vs Lightning Round One Schedule:
Wednesday, April 13 - Tampa Bay at PITTSBURGH - 7:00 p.m.
Friday, April 15 - Tampa Bay at PITTSBURGH - 7:00 p.m.
Monday, April 18 - Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay - 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 20 - Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay - 7:00 p.m.
*Saturday, April 23 - Tampa Bay at PITTSBURGH - TBD
*Monday, April 25 - Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay - TBD
*Wednesday, April 27 - Tampa Bay at PITTSBURGH - TBD
#4 Pittsburgh Penguins
|VS|| #5 Tampa Bay Lightning
Under a new owner, a first-year general manager and rookie head coach, the Tampa Bay Lightning are heading to the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 campaign.
After ending last season in 13th place with a 34-36-12 record and 80 points, the Lightning turned their luck around this year to finish 46-25-10 overall, climbing eight spots to finish fifth in the Eastern Conference and second in the Southeast Division. It was the largest increase in winning percentage by any NHL team from the 2009-10 season to the current campaign with a differential of .131, after posting a .488 win percentage last season and a .619 win percentage this season.
Their 46 wins tied the franchise record and they’ve gone 7-3 in their last 10 games, concluding their regular season by knocking division rival Carolina out of playoff contention with their 4-2 win over the Hurricanes on Saturday.
New owner Jeff Vinik started by hiring Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman as general manager last summer. Yzerman had spent the previous four seasons serving as Detroit’s team vice president and alternate governer and had served as Executive Director of Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics before accepting the position with Tampa Bay. Some of Yzerman’s biggest offseason moves were re-signing forward Martin St. Louis to a four-year contract extension and acquiring forward Simon Gagne from Philadelphia. Yzerman also appointed Guy Boucher as head coach after he earned the American Hockey League’s Coach of the Year award in 2009-10 in his first season with Hamilton, the Lightning’s top minor-league affiliate.
Tampa Bay proceeded to start the season with an NHL-best 7-2-1 record through the first month of the season and posted a respectable 13-7-2 record through their first 22 games – including a five-game winning streak from Nov. 17-24. The Lightning then went 7-3-2 over an NHL-record 12-game homestand from Jan. 23 to Feb. 25, ending February on a three-game win streak that had them five points ahead of Washington in the Southeast Division race – a position they had been battling the Capitals all season for.
But Tampa Bay went on a 2-6-4 skid through their first 12 games of March, which dropped the Lightning six points behind Washington for the division crown – a deficit they would never recover from.
The Lightning are famous for their high-powered offense, with the dynamic duo of Steven Stamkos and St. Louis leading the charge. They ranked second in the league with the most combined points by a pair of teammates with 179 points, and the Bolts linemates have been consistently tearing up the NHL since the start of the season. St. Louis ranks second in league scoring with 99 points and Stamkos placed fourth with 88.
Tampa Bay struggled at times defensively, as they tied with Montreal for the lowest goal differential among playoff contenders with a plus-seven margin. They’ve scored 247 goals (second in the conference), but have allowed 240 (11th in the conference).
Yzerman added a veteran netminder to their goaltending rotation to try and provide some stability between the pipes when he acquired Dwayne Roloson from the New York Islanders on Jan. 1 and later traded the struggling Dan Ellis to Anaheim on Feb. 24. Roloson, 41, finished the regular season with an 18-12-4 record and four shutouts since joining the Lightning.
• The two teams finished their 2010-11 regular-season series with two home wins apiece. Pittsburgh posted back-to-back victories over the Lightning, both coming at CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins defeated the Lightning, 5-1, on Nov. 12, and 8-1 on Jan. 5. Tampa Bay earned a 5-3 victory on Oct. 27 before closing the series with a 2-1 win on March 31, both coming at St. Petes Time Forum.
• Kris Letang led the Penguins in scoring against the Lightning during the regular season with five assists in four games. Chris Kunitz tallied a team-high three goals – all of which came when he notched a hat trick on Jan. 5.
• Martin St. Louis paced the Lightning against the Penguins with three goals and five points in four games against the Penguins, while Steven Stamkos also has five points (1G-4A) in four contests.
• Alex Kovalev is the highest-scoring Penguin against Tampa Bay on Pittsburgh’s current roster, tallying 54 points (27G-27A) in 67 career games played. Simon Gagne is the Lightning’s top performer against the Penguins, notching 19 goals and 23 assists for 42 points in 53 career games. Martin St. Louis is close behind, averaging nearly a point-per-game with 40 points (17G-23A) in 41 career games against Pittsburgh.
• After suffering a 5-3 setback in Tampa Bay on Oct. 27, the Penguins have outscored the Lightning, 13-4, over the previous three meetings.
• Pittsburgh’s eight goals scored against the Lightning in an 8-1 win on Jan. 5 is the team’s single-game high for 2010-11.
• The Penguins are outscoring the Lightning, 8-4, in the first period of games this season.
• Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury became the seventh-youngest netminder in NHL history to record his 150th career win (25 years, 349 days) during the Penguins’ 5-1 win over Tampa Bay Nov. 12.
• During the first period against the Lightning on Oct. 27, Craig Adams and Matt Cooke tallied shorthanded goals 1:01 apart during the same penalty. That marked the 32nd time in team history the Penguins scored two shorthanded goals in one game, and the first since Dec. 15, 2009 when Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal scored against Philadelphia. It also marked the first time the Penguins scored twice on the same penalty kill since Kris Letang and Maxime Talbot did so on April 11, 2009 at Montreal.
LW Teddy Purcell – Purcell, acquired from Los Angeles at last year’s trade deadline in exchange for Jeff Halpern, had a career year with Tampa Bay. The third-year forward established single-season personal-bests with 17 goals, 34 assists and 51 points with the Lightning after recording just 15 points (6G-9A) last season. The 6-foot-2, 201-pound winger has slick hands and solid playmaking skills, as evidenced by his 34 helpers (good for third on the team).
C Vincent Lecavalier – The Bolts captain ended the regular season on a four-game goal streak and recorded points in 10 of his last 11 games. He has 14 points (7G-7A) over that span. After missing 15 games with a broken hand from Nov. 12 to Dec. 11 and scoring just five goals in the first 23 games after his return, LeCavalier rounded back into form down the stretch – tallying 17 goals and 30 points in the final 29 contests. The rugged 6-foot-4, 208-pound center can certainly snipe, as he’s reached the 20-goal mark for an 11th-straight season. Lecavalier is one of three Lightning players left from Tampa Bay's 2004 Stanley Cup-winning squad and notched the primary assist on Ruslan Fedotenko's Cup-clinching goal in Game 7.
RW Martin St. Louis – St. Louis ended the regular season as the Lightning’s leading scorer with 99 points (31G-68A) and on a nine-game point streak, notching 14 points (5G-9A) over that span. He has 24 points in his last 17 contests – being held scoreless in just one of those games – and recording eight multiple-point efforts. The 5-foot-8, 176-pound winger may be the smallest player on the Lightning roster, but St. Louis is extremely dangerous with his explosive speed and tremendous playmaking ability, as he’s set a career high and posted a single-season franchise record with 68 helpers. St. Louis is one of three Lightning players left from Tampa Bay's 2004 Stanley Cup-winning squad and is the Lightning’s all-time career playoff points leader with 48 points in 45 games. He shares the team record for most points in a single playoff series with nine.
CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL SCOUTING REPORT ON TAMPA BAY'S FORWARD LINEUP!
Eric Brewer/Mike Lundin – Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman acquired Brewer from St. Louis on Feb. 18, who had been serving as the Blues captain and paced the team’s blueliners with a career-high tying eight goals at the time of the trade. Brewer, 31, has fit in nicely with his new club, as he leads the Bolts with an average of 21:34 minutes per game and is Tampa Bay’s best penalty killer, skating a team-leading 3:01 shorthanded minutes per contest. He’s joined by partner Lundin, a swift puck-moving defenseman in his third season with the Lightning, the team that drafted him in the fourth round (No. 102 overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He returned to the lineup on March 9 after missing 13 games with an upper-body injury and ranks fourth on the team with an average of 20:14 minutes per game.
CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL SCOUTING REPORT ON TAMPA BAY'S DEFENSE CORPS!
Dwayne Roloson/Mike Smith – The Bolts have quite the goaltending tandem in Roloson and Smith, who have a combined 30-20-6 record with the Lightning between the two of them. It’s the veteran Roloson who is the Bolts’ No. 1 man between the pipes, as Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman acquired the 41-year-old netminder – in his 14th NHL season – from the New York Islanders on Jan. 1 to steady to what had been a sometimes troublesome position for Tampa Bay during the first half of the season.
Roloson – who is 4-1 in his last five starts with a 2.01 goals-against average and .933 save percentage – utilizes an aggressive style, preferring to get into position at the top of his crease to challenge shooters. Roloson also likes to spend more time reacting to pucks while standing rather than sliding on his knees.
Smith has backstopped his way to a 12-6-1 record in 21 games as the Bolts’ backup and has gone 3-1-1 in his last four games after clearing waivers on Feb. 3, culminating with a 41-save performance against Carolina on April 9.
CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL SCOUTING REPORT ON TAMPA BAY'S GOALTENDING DUO!
Penguins Report: 4/12/11
Penguins Radio Appearances
Watch: Plum High School Second-Annual Pittsburgh Penguins Lip Dub
Sync or Swim
Scouting Report: Tampa Bay Defense Corps
Scouting Report: Lightning Forward Lineup
Perseverance: the Penguins' 2010-11 Season in Review
No. 4 Pittsburgh Will Face No. 5 Tampa Bay in First Round of the Playoffs
Aftermath: Lightning 2, Penguins 1 (3/31/11)
Aftermath: Penguins 8, Lightning 1 (1/5/11)
Aftermath: Penguins 5, Lightning 1 (11/12/10)
Aftermath: Lightning 5, Penguins 3 (10/27/10)
Author: Michelle Crechiolo